Best cure-all for the Losing Streak Blues? Just win, baby
What have you done lately? Well, for some of the top drivers on the Sprint Cup circuit, it hasn't been winning, writes David Newton.
Updated: August 6, 2008, 12:25 PM ETBy David Newton | ESPN.com
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Arguably the biggest fight in NASCAR history was breaking out in the grass along the backstretch as the checkered flag flew in the 1979 Daytona 500. The nationally televised skirmish involving Cale Yarborough and the Allison brothers, Bobby and Donnie, has been credited with launching the sport to new heights.Another significant moment happened as well.
Richard Petty won, snapping a 45-race losing streak that at the time was the longest of his career. The driver who 13 years later retired with a record 200 victories and a 242-race winless streak sounded as though he'd just collected his first win as he rolled into Victory Lane."We won! We won!" the man known as "The King" shouted.It's the same sound of relief Dale Earnhardt Jr. expressed when he ended a 76-race losing streak two months ago at Michigan, the same sound Ryan Newman made earlier in the year when he won the Daytona 500 to end an 81-race skid, the same sound Jeff Gordon made in 2002 when he won at Bristol to end a 31-race drought.It's the same sound you'll likely hear Sunday at Watkins Glen International if Gordon, Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Bobby Labonte or some other driver in the midst of a winless spell takes the checkered.Drivers in general don't like losing streaks. Drivers used to winning on a regular basis hate them even more.Gordon, who has 81 career wins and four Sprint Cup titles, has gone 26 races without a victory. Two-time Cup champion Stewart is mired in a career-record 35-race winless streak that dates back to last year at Watkins Glen.Harvick has gone 56 races without a win. Labonte, the 2000 Cup champion, has to go back 165 races to recall his last victory.Drivers who say it's not frustrating to go winless for long periods are lying. Just look at their reactions when the streaks end."That moment in Victory Lane, I wanted to pause it and burn it into my memory forever because it's such an awesome, awesome feeling," Gordon said after snapping his streak in 2002.The odds favor a few of today's top stars ending a losing streak at the Glen. Stewart, the defending champion, has won three of the past four and four of the past six at the 2.45-mile road course. Harvick interrupted that streak with a win in 2006.Before Stewart's dominance, Gordon won four of five races there. But until that moment comes, the questions will persist. The drivers will be asked why they haven't won and whether they believe they can win again.Some will answer reluctantly, tired of facing the same interrogation week after week as Earnhardt endured before Michigan.
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioDale Earnhardt Jr. was glad to see his 76-race skid end two months ago at Michigan.
A look at the winless streaks of several top stars on the Sprint Cup circuit heading into Sunday's race at Watkins Glen International:
|Bobby Labonte||165||2003 (Homestead)|
|Mark Martin||82||2005 (Kansas)|
|Kevin Harvick||56||2007 (Daytona)|
|Tony Stewart||35||2007 (The Glen)|
|Greg Biffle||28||2007 (Kansas)|
|Jeff Gordon||26||2007 (Charlotte)|
|Matt Kenseth||21||2007 (Homestead)|
When you don't, people wonder why. But it happens to the best of them. Seven-time Cup champion Dale Earnhardt went through it during a 59-race winless streak that began in the middle of the 1996 season and ended with his one and only Daytona 500 victory to start 1998.Johnson knows there will come a day when he'll be under the microscope for a losing streak as well."Nobody is immune to it," he said. "It happens to different people at different times. Quite honestly, I've been very fortunate to win all the races I have. You just never know when you're going to stop winning."David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.